Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Inspects Delivered Soil Samples

New observations from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander provide the most magnified view ever seen of Martian sol, showing particles clumping together even at the smallest visible scale.

In the past two days, two instruments on the lander deck -- a microscope and a bake-and-sniff analyzer -- have begun inspecting soil samples delivered by the scoop on Phoenix's Robotic Arm.

"This is the first time since the Viking missions three decades ago that a sample is being studied inside an instrument on Mars," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Stickiness of the soil at the Phoenix site has presented challenges for delivering samples, but also presents scientific opportunities. "Understanding the soil is a major goal of this mission and the soil is a bit different than we expected," Smith said. "There could be real discoveries to come as we analyze this soil with our various instruments. We have just the right instruments for the job."

Images from Phoenix's Optical Microscope show nearly 1,000 separate soil particles, down to sizes smaller than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

At least four distinct minerals are seen.

"It's been more than 11 years since we had the idea to send a microscope to Mars and I'm absolutely gobsmacked that we're now looking at the soil of Mars at a resolution that has never been seen before," said Tom Pike of Imperial College London. He is a Phoenix co-investigator working on the lander's Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer.

The sample includes some larger, black, glassy particles as well as smaller reddish ones. "We may be looking at a history of the soil," said Pike. "It appears that original particles of volcanic glass have weathered down to smaller particles with higher concentration of iron."

The fine particles in the soil sample closely resemble particles of airborne dust examined earlier by the microscope.

Atmospheric dust at the Phoenix site has remained about the same day-to-day so far, said Phoenix co-investigator and atmospheric scientist Nilton Renno of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

"We've seen no major dust clouds at the landing site during the mission so far,"
Renno said. "That's not a surprise because we landed when dust activity is at a minimum. But we expect to see big dust storms at the end of the mission. Some of us will be very excited to see some of those dust storms reach the lander."

Studying dust on Mars helps scientists understand atmospheric dust on Earth, which is important because dust is a significant factor in global climate change.

"We've learned there is well-mixed dust in the Martian atmosphere, much more mixed than on Earth, and that's a surprise," Renno said. Rather than particles settling into dust layers, strong turbulence mixes them uniformly from the surface to a few kilometers above the surface.

Scientists spoke at a news briefing today at the University of Arizona, where new color views of the spacecraft's surroundings were shown.

"We are taking a high-quality, 360-degree look at all of Mars that we can see from our landing site in color and stereo," said Mark Lemmon, Surface Stereo Imager lead from Texas A&M University, College Station.

"These images are important to provide the context of where the lander is on the surface. The panorama also allows us to look beyond our workspace to see how the polygon structures connect with the rest of the area. We can identify interesting things beyond our reach and then use the camera's filters to investigate their properties from afar."

The Phoenix mission is led by Smith at the University of Arizona with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin, Denver.

International contributions come from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Guy Webster, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(818-354-5011; Sara Hammond, University of Arizona (520-626-1974; Dwayne Brown, NASA Headquarters (202-358-1726;

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>